The final score on the XL Center scoreboard read, Hartford Wolf Pack 7, Springfield Falcons 3.
"Did it look easy?" Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander asked. "It wasn't."
It wasn’t, because the Wolf Pack, who played their home opener in front of a crowd of 8,385, were facing a Springfield team doing a hearty impression of “The Little Engine That Could…” You could almost hear them all thinking it, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” Falcons head coach Rob Daum said afterwards, “The other team is very good. We fought back from 3-0 and weathered the storm, but we took too many penalties, and that took us out of the game.”
After falling behind 3-0 in the first period on goals by Nigel Williams (3:12), Corey Locke (9:36) and the first of three on the night by P.A. Parenteau (10:39), the Falcons came right back with two of their own.
The first Falcon tally, a front doorstep tap in by center Geoff Paukovich, came off a rebound of a Colin Fretter shot left there by Pack starter Matt Zaba (0-1-0, 8 saves) at 11:58. Then Ryan Potulny’s power play marker came 2:07 later on one of twenty (you read that right…twenty) man-advantages issued between the two teams by referee Nygel Pelletier. Pelletier, who has a history of calling games as if he got paid by the penalty call, would have earned a big paycheck on the night having issued 36 violations to the two teams.
This was a chippy game no matter how you slice it.
As the first period, literally, came to a close, Zaba came far out of his net to flip the puck away from a charging in alone, Liam Reddox. The Falcon left winger lowered his shoulder and clobbered the Pack number one netminder right on the head knocking the Yorkton, Saskatchewan native out of the game. Incidentally, of all the things Pelletier called all night, on this one he made no call at all.
“He was concussed,” Gernander said. Zaba will be sidelined for an undetermined period of time. “As far as that goes,” The Pack coach said, “We’ll leave that to the doctors.”
Just after the hit as Pack trainer Damien Hess rushed out to tend to his fallen netminder, Theo Peckham, a Falcon thug, jumped Parenteau from behind. The two had been exchanging words and shots all period long.
There were so many players coming in and out of the penalty box, that it started to look like a mini-convention center.
Chad Johnson (1-1-0, 27 saves) entered the game to start the second period which saw the Pack starting the frame with a man advantage. Locke picked up his second goal on the night just 47 seconds into the period tapping in a rebound of an Evgeny Grachev shot. “He’s (Locke) picking up goals every night so that never hurts.” Gernander said. “He likes the special teams and that’s where his bread is buttered.”
The Pack restored the two goal advantage at 4-2.
But “The Little Engine That Could” that played like it was powered by Mike Tyson, kept fighting back.
2:10 later, Justin Soryal gave Peckham a manners lesson with a tough love beat down. At the same time, Patrick Rissmiller, who played his most inspiring contest perhaps since being sent to Hartford, joined him in the sin bin for a Boarding call sending the struggling penalty killers out to the ice for the fifth time in the contest.
Defenseman Chris Armstrong brought the Falcons back to within a goal when he took a nifty cross ice pass from Potulny and easily beat Johnson through the legs from the left side bringing the score to 4-3. It would be the closest the team would get the rest of the way.
On the Pack’s sixth power play, Parenteau took advantage of a failed clearing attempt by the Falcon defense and slammed it under Falcon goaltender Devan Dubnyk (1-2-0, 36 saves).
The Pack continued to pressure the undermanned Falcons and Pelletier had no issues with rewarding the team for it. On what would be their seventh of eleven man-advantages, Brodie Dupont picked up his first of the season off a terrific pass from Dale Weise and fired a rocket form the slot under Dubnyk’s glove for the 6-3 lead.
1:23 later, former Pack defenseman Jake Taylor threw a knee into Dupont and that was not going to go unanswered by the Pack forward. The two got into a scrap that saw quite a few hard blows thrown by both ex-teammates. However, Taylor, the more experienced and bigger fighter, got in the better shots and landed on top of Dupont in front of the two benches.
Things began to get even chirpier as Parenteau and Williams both took penalties just 33 seconds apart which led to a brief 10 second 5-on-3 for Springfield. Parenteau came out of the box and after defending for 12 seconds, he got the puck on a breakaway and got dragged down from behind. Pelletier called for a penalty shot which Parenteau converted with a sweet move and a nice lifted puck over the shoulder of Dubnyk giving him a “Hat Trick”.
"I actually was very tired," Parenteau stated about how he felt before taking the penalty shot. "But I knew what I wanted to do with it. I made the move, didn't have much room. But I put it in up top. A pretty good goal."
If this is any indication of the way the ten games between the two teams will be heading this season, it’s going to be a real exciting series.
Round Two between these two teams comes next Saturday night in Springfield.
Bruce Berlet, who looked remarkably fit and healthy after dropping 80, yes 80 pounds, has the recap as only he can write them at HartfordWolfPack.com. The Hartford Courant was ACTUALLY there…It’s not April Fools. They really did have someone covering the game. Check out the headline of the piece and specifically notice who the paper says the Pack were playing. It’s a sad commentary on the coverage of the ONLY professional sports team in Hartford. Don’t fault John Altavilla. He’s a terrific writer and a great guy. As for the Springfield coverage, Bruce Berlet had the coverage special for Masslive.com.
* Odd to see ex-teammates Brodie Dupont and Jake Taylor have such a huge fight. Neither is much of a fighter but both have no fear of hand-to-hand combat.
* The Rangers latest Executive Intern to Glen Sather, some guy by the name of Mark Messier, hung out in the rafters with Pack General Manager Jim Schoenfeld.
* Two former Wolf Pack players sit at the Captain’s table for the Falcons. The team Captain is Dean Arsene, who played for the Wolf Pack in 2002-03. His running mate on the ice is Jake Taylor. The Falcon assistant captain played parts of four seasons with the Wolf Pack.
* Parenteau’s hat trick was his first in over two years and his first as a member of the Hartford Wolf Pack.
* The Pack had a promotion for opening night called “Everyone’s a Kid.” The promotion had all seats at $10. The attendance was 8,385. The team does offer all tickets in the 200 section at $10 for all games. Perhaps offering more seats than that would keep attendance at those levels? The place is a lot more electric when the team draws like that. It’s a better environment for the players, for the fans and ultimately for the organization. Just think of the PR windfall in such tough economic times to announce something like that? It’s just a thought.
* Gernander stated that Miika Wiikman has been recalled from Charlotte. “I’m really anxious to show the team this is where I belong.” Wiikman said in an email message to Howlings.
Byers – Rissmiller - Owens
Grachev– Crowder – Parenteau
Dupont – Locke - Weise
Soryal – Ambuhl
Heikkinen – Potter
Williams - Sanguinetti
Henley – Sauer
Devin DiDIomete – Broken Arm – Six Weeks
Tyler Arnason - Healthy
1. HFD - 17 Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau
2. HFD - 84 Corey Locke
3. SPR - 17 Ryan Potulny
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Nygel Pelletier (41), Referee
Paul Simeon (66), Linesman
David Spannaus (8), Linesman
Sunday afternoon for the return affair with the Providence Bruins who smoked the Pack 5-3 on Friday night. Game time is 4pm.